<br /> Lee Letter: b124

Washington and Lee University

Sender: Richard Henry Lee
Recipient: Francis Lightfoot Lee

My Dear Brother,

The last Post day brought no letters from you or any of my friends, occasioned I suppose by the severity of the weather, which prevented the rider from travelling and crossing Rivers. I shall be well pleased to know the effect produced by “Common Sense” and my Narrative upon Deanes execrable libel. If it is not the fate of mankind that they shall cherish vice in opposition to truth and public good, no doubt will remain but that this impudent attempt will at length meet the censure it merits. I hope every Wretch whose crimes deserve it, will find the assertion of Dr. Cudworth to be just, “That truth is the most unbending and uncompliable, the most necessary, firm, immutable and adamantine thing in the world.” But then some care and pains must be taken to produce and state this truth to public view and to general understanding. For this reason it seems to me of indispensable propriety that all the letters and Documents both of Congress and in private possession relative to Deane’s misconduct should be laid before the public. A very few pertinent comments will do. I wish only that the world may perfectly understand Mr. Deane, and I shall be quite at my ease about any effect that his libels, and his low art of inuendo can do, to produce either public or private injury and injustice. The employment he has been in, and the events that have taken place during that period, open the minds of people who know him not, to credit his talk of great sufferings and great doings. This again disposes to believe what this great sufferer and great Doer even insinuates by supposition or inuendo, Now the truth is, that these events would have indubitably happened if Deane had been all the time in the Hottentot Country – He was bound to France on his own private speculations, and surely the application of public money to support him in affluence and grandeur unknown to him before cannot be called suffering. And as far as his agency affected our affairs it was evidently to their injury, witness the illtimed, indecent fitting out of privateers, against the sense of Congress and the earnest repeated desires of the Court of France – Witness his conduct with the Cutters which was in direct opposition to the instructions of the Secret Committee. I suppose that I am within bounds when I say, that eight tenths of the Stores which have come, and come so late, are to be, and have been accounted for to others, altho these are ostensibly alluded to as the produce of three millions which he has not accounted for: The early communication to London of the Treaty (before it was executed) by Dr. Bancroft, and the great intimacy of this last with Deane, are striking things. He says Dr. Lee’s Secretary went to London – Let him be asked if no Clerk or Secretary of his went there – Dr. Lee might have private, very licit business, having lived there, but this was not the case with Mr. Deane. These speculations that Dr. Bancroft talks of deserve enquiring about – Was it gaming in the Funds or what! Lord North told Mr. Hartley that the American Commissioners were gaming in the funds of England – This may explain Bancroft. Now, since the papers which Mr. Adams, yourself, and Congress possess will state these matters very clearly, it must be of great utility to give them to the Public – It is happy for Mankind that depraved hearts are commonly joined with weak heads and therefore in the present libel Congress is as much traduced as Individuals. Their honor and the public good makes it necessary, that Mr. Deane should be rightly understood and that he should be called upon immediately to settle his accounts with Vouchers before intelligent, honest, and spirited Commissioners, to be appointed for the purpose. It must be of great importance to summon Mr. Stephenson, Sr. James Jay, and Mr. Diggs: to give evidence concerning Mr. Deane – Mr. Stephenson did certainly declare in the lobby of our House of Delegates, that Mr. Deane was concerned in trade, which the latter publicly denied to Congress.

My health is much better, but I have not got my cloaths made – We are miserably off here for Taylors, and my winter Apparatus very bad. My friend Colo. Geo. Mason has been a week here and keeps me from going into some necessary preparatives for my return to Philadelphia – I hope however to sett out in 15 or 16 days hence – The old Squire of Maryland has lost his eldest Son Phil Lee. our love to Mrs. Lee and the Shippens, and cordial respects to our friends

Most affectionately Yours.

P.S. Infinite pains are taking to spread about Deane’s libel here –


Lee PapersUniversity of Virginia

Printed in James Curtis Ballagh, The Letters of Richard Henry Lee, Volume 1, 1762 – 1778, pp. 373 – 76. Printed also in the January 1860 issue of the Southern Literary Messenger, p. 11.